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Art in the Kitchen and on the Streets

Le Palais Garnier, by JR
Le Palais Garnier, by JR

Paris is hotter than…an iron skillet on Xavier Denamur’s stove.


Xavier Denamur is known as an outspoken and seasoned “restaurateur” in Le Marais who set up a small empire of traditional, home-cooked-style restaurants in the late 80s and early 90s. Some of them are well-trafficked by tourists, while others remain a bit more patronized by the locals, but all are some of the best in the hood: Les Philosophes, La Belle Hortense, La Chaise au Plafond, and Au Petit Fer à Cheval. A fifth one that I used to frequent has since sadly closed its doors—L’Etoile Manquante.

Au Petit Fer à Cheval is my favorite. And so is one of the servers there—Bouba. It was the first of Xavier’s bistrots located along rue Vieille du Temple, and this one became his good luck horseshoe leading to success and the rest of the establishments. The bar is shaped like a horseshoe, hence the name, and it attracts a group of regulars that enjoy sitting on the stools, schmoozing with each other as well as the servers.

Years ago with close friends from L.A., at Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Years ago with close friends from L.A., at Au Petit Fer à Cheval

I prefer heading to the back where there is a small room that seats less than 30 people, elbow to elbow on tiny square wooden tables. You have to know it exists there, otherwise, you’d end up at Les Philosophes just next door where most of the tourists go. (Uh oh! I’m probably about to ruin the local vibe by giving away this little secret gem!)

The traditional dishes are homemade and Xavier is a proud papa. We had the opportunity to film a part of our House Hunters International there last week, to watch him show and describe how he and his kitchen staff prepare and make their Confit de Canard*, which I tout to be the best in the city, if not in all of France! Then, there’s the Tarte Tatin** (which is seriously not on my diet), but gets rave reviews from Tarte Tatin lovers everywhere. Xavier showed us how and why it’s the best in Paris, in his enthusiastic and outspoken style. (Be sure to ask for crème fraiche to top it off when you order it.)

Owner, Xavier Denamur, showing off his Tarte Tatin for the House Hunters International filming (

Owner, Xavier Denamur, showing off his Tarte Tatin for the House Hunters International filming

For some reason, for the last 25+ years, whenever I’d walk past Au Petit Fer à Cheval, a table located on the sidewalk terrace would miraculously become vacant for me, as if saying, “Have a seat. This is your home here.” It was impossible to resist. Once I discovered the Confit de Canard, crispy and not at all oily, firm and tasty, served with delicious French fries and a perfect salad of lettuce, carrots, beets, cucumbers and other goodies…it was all over. I was hooked and became a regular. On top of it all, it’s one of the few bistrots that serves Morgon wine by the glass, my favorite of all wines, and doesn’t appear on many menus.

Confit de Canard at Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Confit de Canard at Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Then, I fell in love with Bouba. Bouba’s big bright white toothy smile makes everyone’s heart melt. I’m not the only one, so I know Bouba’s doing an awful lot of kissing of patrons (mostly the women, naturally). He and Xavier will be a part of this new episode, so keep and eye out, but meanwhile, reserve your spot and tell them I sent you!

Server Bouba, Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Server Bouba, Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Au Petit Fer à Cheval
30 Rue Vieille-du-Temple
75004 Paris
Closed Monday and Tuesday
+33 1 42 72 47 47

*Confit de Canard is crafted by first salt-curing duck meat and then subjecting it to a leisurely cooking process in its own fat. Its name is derived from the French verb “confire,” signifying “to preserve.” Duck Confit holds a special place as a regional specialty in the southwest of France, particularly in Gascony. This culinary tradition was originally introduced to Gascony by the Romans as a method of meat preservation in an era before refrigeration.

**Tarte Tatin was named after Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin, sisters who invented it and served it in their hotel as its signature dish. It is a pastry in which the fruit (usually apples) is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked…upside down.


There are a couple of street artists whose work has gone beyond the streets to ultimate fame. JR is one of them, and has become one of my favorite artists of all time. For some reason, that name might not trigger your recall as much as Banksy’s, but in my opinion, is monumentally more important. He has…”conquered the world with his incredible black-and-white art, using only paper and glue to give voice to the marginalized and unseen. JR might just be one of the most famous artists in the world.”

Portrait of JR by Erica Simone

Portrait of JR by Erica Simone

If you hurry, before September 17th, you’ll have the unique opportunity to see his work on the façade of the Opéra Palais Garnier, evoking Plato’s cave as a place of knowledge and transmission. He’s dressed the scaffolding, covering the monument with two successive installations. This project is a continuation of other monumental installations, like those on the plaza of the Louvre Museum, the Trocadero esplanade, the facades of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, inviting the viewer to change their perspective. Like an opera libretto, JR proposes a metamorphosis of the façade in two acts, the first one now and the second in November.

Le Palais Garnier, by JR

My daughter became friends with JR years ago at the time she was exhibiting her photographic works in New York galleries. When he was installing his work on the plaza at Le Louvre in late March of 2019, he invited us to be a part of it by assisting in papering it, using enormous sheets of paper, large brushes and vats of glue. It was quite an experience and the outcome was…monumental! (You can read more about this in this former Nouvellettre®.

Close up of Le Palais Garnier, by JR

Close up of Le Palais Garnier, by JR

Try not to miss this newest JR installation in Paris! To learn more about it, visit this site.


Still in the mood for great street art, the Banksy Museum was just a 15-minute walk from Place de l’Opéra at 44, rue du Faubourg Montmartre in the 9th, with no line at the entry. The World of Banksy has found this permanent home where one can explore a treasure trove of over a hundred artworks, unveiling both the iconic and lesser-known creations of this elusive artist who shrouds himself in anonymity, even more so than does JR.

The Banksy Museum

Banksy is his pseudonym, and is only known as an England-based street artist, but is clearly a political activist, and a filmmaker, active since the 1990s. He conceals his true identity sparking ongoing speculation about his real name. His works utilize a distinctive stenciling technique, and are filled with dark humor that creates satirical street art and subversive epigrams. His thought-provoking works of political and social commentary have graced streets, walls, and bridges across the globe.

Art by Banksy

Banksy’s works serve as the portal to comprehend his unique universe. They stimulate contemplation and unveil the artist’s character, marked by irony, provocation, sometimes tragic, sometimes filled with humor. He is a global citizen, a humanist, a champion of humanitarian causes, an activist, has been called an “artivist,” and clearly is a non-conformist.

Art by Banksy

Notably, he no longer sells photographs or reproductions of his street graffiti, but his public “installations” frequently change ownership, sometimes involving the removal of the painted walls. You might even say that his work falls under the category of “temporary art,” not just “contemporary art!”

Art by Banksy

(You will find a visit to the museum a worthwhile adventure. And while I thoroughly enjoy a stroll through the musuem, I’d put JR’s work up against Banksy’s anytime!)

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds in a white beret at Au Petit Fer à ChevalAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Have you registered for our Expats in France Quarterly Financial Forum yet? It’s coming up September 20th! See our promo for this event at the top of this Nouvellettre®. Sign up today!


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